This is a rough time to be a journalist.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with all the scandals currently swamping President Obama’s second term, the worst of them has to do with the Department of Justice snooping on reporters. It started with the news that the DOJ had collected two months’ of telephone records from Associated Press reporters without the knowledge or consent of the news organization. Apparently, department agents were trying to discover the source of a story revealing the details behind a thwarted Al Qaeda plot to blow up an airplane in 2012. Then it came out that the DOJ had obtained phone records used by a Fox News journalist as part of another leak investigation. The AP and Fox have protested the DOJ’s actions, with one AP rep calling them a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” Meanwhile, journalists all over the country are complaining that the Obama administration is infringing on their constitutional rights and making it harder for them to do their jobs, and Congress has been holding hearings. For his part, Attorney General Eric Holder has defended his people by saying the AP story constituted a “very, very serious leak … among the top two or three leaks that I’ve ever seen,” one that “put the American people at risk.” It’s the classic playbook for a government caught overreaching—blame dissenters and reporters for endangering children and soldiers when they start howling about the First Amendment—but if Holder really wants to get reporters of his back, maybe he should take a page out of Vitor Belfort’s book.
After his dramatic knockout victory over Luke Rockhold last weekend in Brazil, the UFC middleweight contender got testy with a reporter who dared to ask him about his use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and what effect it may have had on his performance.
“Can someone beat him up for me, please?” Belfort responded with a dismissive wave of his hand. “You’re boring, man, get out of here. Talk to my hand, man.” He then refused to answer anymore of the reporter’s questions. Two days later, whether because he realized what a mistake he’d made or because UFC officials made him realize what a mistake he’d made, Belfort apologized on Twitter:
So, Attorney General Holder, next time you’re looking for a way to maneuver your way through the minefield of pesky reporters who keep popping up to demand that you, the most powerful lawman in the country, not conduct unconstitutional searches and seizures of their phone records and not try to coerce them into giving up sources whenever they stumble their way into stories you don’t want them to have and then turn around and complain when you accuse them of endangering Americans by doing their jobs, try the Vitor Belfort approach: First threaten them, then demean them, then brush them off, then refuse to answer their questions, then, a few days later, take to social media and swear up and down that you’re awfully sorry for the whole mess and that you’ll never do it again. Then sit back and watch while the whole controversy just drifts away.
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